In one of the most thrilling finishes in this World Cup, where 657 runs were scored and 17 wickets fell, Ireland won the game of tilting fortunes, when their captain William Porterfield finished a running catch to dismiss Tawanda Mupariwa in the final over. In this World Cup Ireland’s only loss in four matches has come against South Africa, when they had a massive 412-run target to chase. That couldn’t happen because any team other than Ireland would also have found that extremely difficult. On Saturday at Hobart, Ireland batted first and scored 331/8 in 50 overs. Not to be outdone, Zimbabwe took the 332-run chase as a challenge and almost overhauled Ireland but Mupariwa got unlucky in the end after blasting 11 runs off 7 balls that he faced. With 3 balls remaining in the 50th over, the Zimbabwean had to go for his shot but he fell to the captain’s catch as Ireland stole the thriller by 5 runs. With their super performance Ireland is now a strong contender for the quarterfinal spot. But after their loss, Zimbabwe joined UAE as the second team from Group B to be knocked out CWC2015. India have won all their matches and they are the only team to be certain of a place in quarterfinals. South Africa’s loss to Pakistan has not done any real damage as they have a game left against UAE and they should finish behind India in the group, unless India lose both their matches. Now for the last two spots, there is fight among Pakistan, Ireland and West Indies. If Ireland beats either India or Pakistan, they go through and take the third place behind India and South Africa. In any case, the battle here onwards is going to be interesting. Ireland’s never-say-die spirit may come to the fore in their remaining two games.
At Hobart, Zimbabwe won the toss and asked Ireland to bat first. Despite losing Paul Stirling early, William Porterfield and Ed Joyce carried Ireland’s score to 79 in the 21st over before Porterfield fell as the second wicket. In a strange way, the captain’s departure speeded things up as Ireland’s two best batsmen came together. Ed Joyce was already there and he was joined by Andy Balbirnie. The two of them added 138 for the third wicket in about 18 overs. The run-rate jumped and Ireland found a grip on the game. Though, Joyce got out after scoring 103-ball 112 with 9 fours and 3 sixes, Balbirnie found partners in Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson and the flow runs continued. Balbirnie and O’Brien added 59; Balbirnie and Wilson produced another 32 and Ireland crossed 300 with ease. Balbirnie was the last man to go in the Ireland innings that was worth 331/8 in 50 overs but he was unlucky to miss his century by 3 runs. Balbirnie played a Mupariwa yorker to sweeper cover and attempting a second run brought his downfall.
A 332-run chase is not a simple matter in ODIs but Zimbabwe were not to give up easily. They went for it purposefully despite losing four wickets for 74 in 17th over. Skipper Brendon Taylor and Sean Williams picked up the thread from there and took the score to 223 in the 38th over. Taylor scored a forceful 121 off 92 balls with 11 fours and 4 sixes. But Williams continued with Craig Ervine to add 36 for the sixth wicket. After Ervine departed, Williams still carried on and ensured that Zimbabwe crossed 300 in the 47th over. But Williams’ departure brought some anxiety in the Zimbabwe camp. Chakabva and Mupariwa, however kept the hopes alive. Ireland looked nicely placed with Zimbabwe still requiring 26 off the last 12 balls. But Mupariwa hammered 2 fours and a six and with Kevin O’Brien conceding a few more runs, the game entered the final over with 7 required for victory. But with Chakabva being clean-bowled by Cusack off the first ball, Ireland needed just one more wicket. Off the second ball, Tendai Chatara edged and ran for a single. Now 6 runs were required off the remaining 4 balls. Mupariwa was just one big hit away from a great win for Zimbabwe but his lofted shot off the third ball found Porterfield easing himself under the down-coming ball. The elevation on the shot gave ample time for the Ireland captain to cover a lot of ground and he completed the catch that brought a thrilling 5-run victory for his nation.